Recently Featured Essays:  

Cells

by Marcia Butler

One day in the early 1970s, a friend and I played hooky from conservatory classes at The Mannes College of Music. Diligent, disciplined and hopeful about our future careers in music—mid-semester blues had nonetheless descended upon us. We’d had just about enough of music theory and solfeggio classes for the morning. So on a lark, we left the comfort of the upper-east-side and ventured down to the vast construction site where the Twin Towers were being erected. Somehow we were able to slip into an elevator in the South Tower, punch a very high number and ride up to one of the top floors still under construction. A few workmen were milling about, but no one stopped us or paid any attention to our wide-eyed shenanigans. The site was surprisingly deserted, at least on the floor we happened upon.

Walking out into the yet-to-be-constructed offices, we felt simultaneously inside and outside. The wind was whipping through the open space, because the windows, all stacked up against those now famous thick interior columns, had not yet been installed. Curious and brave, we walked towards those huge gaping cavities, and for a moment we really did feel on top of the world. Hand in hand, we ventured right to the brim, without fear or hard hats. We felt giddy as the building swayed, and we gripped each other more tightly.

Read: "Cells"

 

The Woman Who Is Not My Mother

by Marsha Roberts 

I can hear her walking toward the front door, her sensible shoes shuffling closer and closer. But the door doesn’t open yet. She is standing there, just on the other side. She’s making the sign of the cross and asking the Blessed Virgin for courage. I know this because I have seen it many times from the other side. 

“Who is it?” she says, her voice the size of a doll’s. 

Before I can answer, she says it again, this time pleading. “Who is it?” She's imagining the worst … no, not imagining—remembering. It is wartime and they've come to take her and her family away. The words tremble through the door again. “Please, who is it?” 

I try to sound as cheery as I can. “Your daughter!” 

“Who?” Mercifully, confusion spills over the terror, blunting it.

Read: "The Woman Who Is Not My Mother"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down the Aisle with Henry James

by Renée Tursi

In his 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James put his heroine Isabel Archer’s marriage at the story’s midpoint. Before then, nuptials had always dwelt at a tale's end. Following Isabel’s ill-considered decision to wed the pernicious Gilbert Osmond, James kept the cameras rolling, giving his readers unnerving access to a very unhappy ever-after.

Having recently entered the marriage plot for the first time in my early fifties, I am thrown off by the return of the fairytale arc in my life. My ever-after, a copiously joyful one so far, has fallen a considerable distance from Isabel’s youthful start of the tale, and presumably well past the middle. Crunching the numbers, I see I could conceivably escape any marital strife just by where my husband and I fall in the actuarial tables. “Before the charm wears off, we’ll be dead” was how the last boyfriend had spun our dating circumstance. He missed the mark for that romance. But he may be spot on about my marriage.

Yet, while it turned out not to be too late for me to be married, I wonder if it might be too late for me to feel married.

Read: "Down the Aisle with Henry James"

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